The Church Society Council, the Reform Council, and the trustees of the Fellowship of Word and Spirit (FWS) have agreed to a three-way merger.
In a joint statement issued by the Church Society, the decision was made because of the challenges being presented to Reformed evangelical Anglicans at this time.
The statement said: ‘It is in the light of our shared biblical, Reformed, Anglican faith and common goals that we have decided the challenges of the present time require us to unite our efforts so we are better placed to harness the energies of evangelicals in contending for the gospel’.
The statement acknowledged that, although it will be hard to bring such bodies together, it was right for biblical Christians to pursue this course of action. ‘In the Bible the impact of sin always seems to be fragmentation and dispersal, but the fruit of the gospel and living under the rule of Christ is unity and gathering together.
‘Furthermore, we believe in the circumstances of the present Church of England, the coming together of these bodies will enable us to be more effective in the pioneering, establishing and securing of healthy local Anglican churches’.
Both Reform and FWS are to be encouraging members to join the ‘renewed Church Society’, in advance of the Church Society’s AGM on 12 May. At the AGM, a new council will be elected, which is expected to include representatives of all three groups. A new president will also be appointed.
The statement added: ‘There will, of course, be much still to work out in terms of the new organisation and how best to ensure we retain the valuable work that each has been doing’.
Rev. Dr Lee Gatiss, director of Church Society, commented: ‘This is a huge story and counters the fiction that orthodox groups are fragmenting and leaving. We’re not. We’re coming together like never before, as the times demand’.
‘This isn’t “politics”; it is better living out the theological vision we proclaim, for the sake of the church and our nation’, said Rev. Dr Rob Munro, chairman of FWS.
Bishop Rod Thomas added, ‘Twenty-five years ago, Reform came into existence in order to galvanise evangelicals into contending for scriptural faithfulness within the Church of England. Much has changed since then, but the urgent need to keep contending for the gospel remains’.